Vision without Action is a daydream; Action without Vision is a nightmare

Japanese Proverb

Origins of IMI

In 2006, leaders of four organisations, one in the US, one in Europe and two in Asia, discussed the longer term future of the dispute resolution field and what, if anything, they could do to improve its prospects. They represented the Netherlands Mediation Institute (NMI), the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC), the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and the A American Arbitration Association ‘s International Centre for Dispute Resolution (AAA/ICDR).

The growth of international trade and investment had significantly enhanced the need for private dispute resolution services. Until the 1980s, this mainly meant arbitration. Modern arbitration tracks its origin to the 19th Century in Europe, then in the 20th Century, formalized with the US Federal Arbitration Act of 1925. AAA and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators were established and arbitration gradually matured to international acceptability.

Since it was first seriously proposed as an “alternative” to litigation and arbitration at the Pound Conference in St Paul, Minnesota in April 1976, mediation had been growing in recognition and acceptance, particularly in North America but also in several other countries, including the Netherlands and Singapore. But, unlike arbitration, which had the benefit of user recognition and control in national statutes and international conventions, the growth of mediation has largely been fragmented and uncoordinated. Hundreds of mediation provider organisations have come into existence, there were virtually no effective legislative controls on the delivery of mediation, and anyone could practice as a mediator. In almost all jurisdictions, that remains the case to this day.

The founding institutions agreed that quality and information were the keys to unlocking greater traction for mediation. At the urging of Netherlands-based international mediator, Annette van Riemsdijk, it was agreed that the best vehicle for increasing quality perception and improving understanding about mediation was an independent, non-profit, non-service-provider, global foundation designed to inspire user confidence in mediators and mediation. That foundation needed to attract support from all competing players in the dispute resolution market worldwide and all other stakeholders – users (disputants), advocates (mainly law firms), adjudicators (judges and arbitrators), educators (academics and mediation skills trainers) and policy makers (mainly governments). Its mission would be to set transparent mediation quality standards and to explain and promote the value of resolving disputes using mediation. It was also agreed that transparency and diversity should underpin the IMI competency scheme, preferably involving a way to make user feedback on the competency and skills of mediators to be made public for the benefit of future users. For these public benefit reasons, it was resolved to form the International Mediation Institute (IMI) and provide initial funding for it to achieve these goals on a global scale.

First steps

Once the first Executive Director (Michael Leathes) and the Operations Director (Irena Vanenkova) had been identified, a meeting was convened in early 2007 to discuss incorporation, funding and an operational plan. It was agreed to register IMI as a foundation (“stitching”) in The Hague, that AAA/ICDR, SMC and SIAC would fund IMI for its initial few years through donations, and that IMI would develop an international mediator competency credentialing scheme supported by NMI, which offered the expertise it had developed in creating NMI Certification of mediators in The Netherlands – the only truly national credentialing scheme for mediators in the world.

IMI was incorporated under Dutch Law in The Hague on March 23, 2007. A provision was made in the Articles of Association for an Advisory Council as well as a Board of Directors. The first executive director agreed to serve in that capacity pro bono, in order to contain costs. It was also agreed that, in due course, an Independent Standards Commission would be convened comprising thought leaders in mediation drawn from all stakeholder groups, worldwide.

The Hague was chosen as the seat of IMI for its standing as the international city of peace, justice and reconciliation, and the location in the Peace Palace of the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Moreover, the City of The Hague was encouraging NGOs to establish themselves in the city.

A leading international mediator, Leslie Mooyaart (formerly General Counsel of KLM, now Vice President Legal at APM Terminals, a division of Maersk), who had been instrumental in the formation of IMI, offered IMI a temporary address at his office location in The Hague. However, it was agreed to apply as soon as possible to the Municipality of The Hague to be allocated a permanent physical office space in one of the City-owned buildings reserved for International NGOs. In 2008, the Municipality of The Hague identified a fully-serviced office to accommodate IMI in the Bertha von Suttner Building at 70 Laan van Meerdervoort, close to the Peace Palace, which the Municipality reserves for approved NGOs that it leases at subsidised rents. In addition, the Municipality graciously donated €45k to IMI over three years to help it establish in The Hague. IMI continues to hold this office.

IMI had applied to the Dutch Tax Service for a ruling that IMI to be accepted as an “Algemeen Nut Beogende Instellingen” (ANBI) (Institution Aimed at the Common Good), a status accorded to charitable, religious, humanistic, cultural and scientific institutions whose mission and operations are deemed by the Tax Service overwhelmingly to serve the public interest. Donations to ANBI-registered entities are exempt from Dutch Gift Tax and donors to such entities may deduct grants made from taxable income. IMI has been deemed to be ANBI-registered since January 2009.

The announcement was sent to the IMI Community that Irena Vanenkova, IMI Executive Director, would be leaving IMI on January 15, 2018.

Dear Members of the IMI Community,

We are writing to announce a change to the structure of IMI that will occur in the beginning of 2018. Irena Vanenkova, who has served IMI selflessly since 2007, will be stepping away from her role as Executive Director in mid- January.

Irena has tirelessly worked to promote IMI and its Vision and Mission. Many of you consider her a cherished friend. You have seen her at conferences and meetings explaining the value of IMI Certification and being part of its many Task Forces and Committees.

Irena has been at the centre of practically all of the developments of IMI in its first 10 years. We thank her for her energy and commitment, which will continue to benefit IMI long into the future.

Please join us in wishing Irena the best.

We appreciate your continued support.


Deborah Masucci and Kimberly Taylor

Co-Chairs of the Board
November 7, 2017